|Sir Archibald Murray|
Lt.-Gen. Sir Archibald J. Murray
23 April 1860|
|Died||21 January 1945
|Years of service||1879 - 1922|
|Commands held||Egyptian Expeditionary Force
|Battles/wars||Second Boer War
World War I
|Awards||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Distinguished Service Order
General Sir Archibald James Murray, GCB, GCMG, CVO, DSO (23 April 1860 – 21 January 1945) was a British Army officer who served in the Second Boer War and World War I. He was Chief of Staff to the BEF in August 1914 but appears to have suffered a physical breakdown in the retreat from Mons, and was required to step down from that position in January 1915. After serving as Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff for much of 1915, he was briefly Chief of the Imperial General Staff from September to December 1915. He was then Commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from January 1916 to June 1917, in which role he laid the plans for the ultimate defeat of the Turks in Palestine.
Army career 
Born the son of Charles Murray and Anne Murray (née Graves) and educated at Cheltenham College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Archibald Murray was commissioned into the 27th Regiment on 13 August 1879. He was appointed adjutant of his regiment on 12 February 1886. After promotion to captain on 1 July 1887 and taking part in the suppression of a Zulu uprising in 1888, he became adjutant of the 4th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment on 15 December 1890. He attended Staff College, Camberley in 1897.
Promoted to major on 1 June 1898, Murray served in the Second Boer War as Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General for Intelligence in Natal from 9 October 1899 and then as chief of staff to the commander there. He took part in the withdrawal from Dundee and then the siege of Ladysmith in late 1899 and became senior staff officer to Sir Archibald Hunter, General Officer Commanding 10th Division, early in 1900. He was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General on 6 March 1900, promoted to lieutenant colonel on 29 October 1900 and awarded the DSO on 29 November 1900. He was again mentioned in despatches in February 1901.
After being appointed Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in India in October 1901, he was deployed to Northern Transvaal in February 1902 where he was seriously wounded in April 1902 and mentioned in despatches once more in July 1902. After returning to England he became Assistant Adjutant-General at Headquarters 1st Division at Aldershot on 3 November 1902. Promoted to colonel on 29 October 1903, he was appointed CB in the King's Birthday Honours 1904 and CVO on 12 June 1907.
Murray became Director of Military Training at the War Office on 9 November 1907 and, having been promoted to major-general on 13 July 1910, he was advanced to KCB in the Coronation Honours in June 1911. He also took part in the procession for the coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911. He became Inspector of Infantry on 9 December 1912 and then briefly commanded 2nd Division from 1 February 1914.
Chief of Staff BEF 
Murray had already earned a high reputation as a staff officer in South Africa and under French at the War Office. It is sometimes claimed that Murray was given the position largely because French's initial choice for the post, Wilson, was vetoed because of his role in the Curragh Affair. Although this claim was made after the war by Edmonds, Kirke (in his memoir of Macdonogh) and Murray, there is no contemporary evidence, even in Wilson’s diary, to confirm it (unlike January 1915, when Wilson was certainly blocked from succeeding Murray for political reasons).
Wilson, French and Murray crossed to France on 14 August. The code books had been left behind in London, and Lieutenant Spears had to go back to London for another set. He returned to find Murray at Rheims trying to “unravel” the situation on a set of large maps on the floor of his hotel room, on all fours and dressed only in his underpants whilst chambermaids came and went.
Retreat from Mons 
During the retreat of August 1914 the BEF staff, who had not rehearsed their roles, performed poorly. French was a dynamic leader but no manager.
Murray summoned the Corps Chiefs of Staff at around 1am on 24 August (the night after the Battle of Mons), and ordered them to retreat, but gave them no detailed plans, leaving them to work out the details themselves. French agreed to Haig’s request to retreat east of the Forest of Mormal (Haig Diary, 24 August) without, apparently, Smith-Dorrien being asked or informed. Murray and his staff were working flat out in intense heat at Bavai, and recorded (24 August) that he had passed 24 hours without undressing or sleeping. Smith-Dorrien visited GHQ to request detailed orders on the evening of 24 August, and had to bully Murray into issuing orders for II Corps to retreat to Le Cateau.
Murray noted in his diary (25 August) that GHQ had moved back from Le Cateau to St Quentin and that I Corps was being heavily engaged by night – making no mention of what II Corps were up to. When 4th Division arrived (25 August) Snow’s orders were to help prepare a defensive position on the Cambrai-Le Cateau position, as GHQ had no idea of the seriousness of the situation facing II Corps. 4th Division was eventually able to participate in the Battle of Le Cateau. The news that Smith-Dorrien planned to stand and fight at Le Cateau reached GHQ at 5am on 26 August – French was woken from his sleep, and insisting that Murray not be woken, sent Smith-Dorrien an ambiguous message that he had “a free hand as to the method” by which he fell back, which Smith-Dorrien took as permission to fight.
Murray appears to have suffered some kind of physical collapse round about this time, although the details differ between different eyewitness accounts. Wilson recorded that Murray had “completely broken down”, had been given “morphia or some other drug” which made him incapable of work and when told (7am on 26 August) of Smith-Dorrien's decision to stand and fight “promptly got a fainting fit”. Spears' recollection (in 1930) was that Murray had collapsed with a weak pulse, but did not actually faint, when told earlier during the same night (the news later turned out to be exaggerated) that the Germans had fallen upon Haig's I Corps at Landrecies. Spears wrote that Murray was too ill to attend the meeting of Sir John French with Joffre and Lanzerac on 26 August, although Terraine has him attending this meeting. General Macready later recorded that Murray fainted at his desk whilst working at Noyon (where GHQ was based on 27 August).
Murray complained to Victor Huguet (a French liaison officer serving with the British) about Wilson (6 October), but also told Wilson that French was getting “more unreasonable” and asked Wilson whether he (Murray) should resign; Wilson informed Billy Lambton, French’s secretary, of both of these incidents. Murray also (4–5 November) complained and threatened to resign when Wilson amended one of his orders without telling him. At the end of November and again in mid-December French told Wilson he was thinking of moving Murray to a corps command. Asquith and Kitchener (20 December) forbade French to replace Murray with Wilson. Wilson claimed to have heard Joffre, on a visit to GHQ (27 December), complain that it was “a pity” that Murray had not been removed.
Murray was sent off sick for a month (24 January 1915) and French demanded his resignation (25 January 1915), despite Murray insisting that he only needed to take a few days off. Wilson was widely suspected of having plotted for Murray's removal in the vain hope of replacing him, but the job went to Robertson. Although a sore throat prevented him seeing Murray off, French wrote to him (29 January) saying he hoped to see him back as an army commander before long. Haig wrote (diary 26 January) that “Murray was a kindly fellow but not a practical man in the field”.
Chief of the Imperial General Staff 
He became Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 26 September 1915. He was promoted to permanent lieutenant general on 28 October 1915. However H. H. Asquith, the prime minister, was unable to achieve any consensus within his cabinet on strategy and sought a change, forcing Murray out on 23 December 1915 and instead appointing Sir William Robertson, a strong advocate of the single (Western) front strategy.
Egyptian Command 
In January 1916, Murray was given command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Britain had 300,000 men in Egypt, many of them ANZACs or Gallipoli evacuees, supposedly to guard against a Turkish attack across the Sinai, which Robertson thought logistically unlikely. By July 1916, on Robertson’s orders, Murray had shipped out 240,000 of them, including 9 infantry divisions, 3 independent infantry brigades and 9 heavy artillery batteries, most of them going to France, leaving him with 4 Territorial divisions and some mounted troops.
Lloyd George wanted to make the destruction of Turkey a major British war aim, and two days after becoming Prime Minister told Robertson that he wanted a major victory, preferably the capture of Jerusalem, to impress British public opinion. Robertson thought the capture of Beersheba should suffice as more divisions were needed in France. However, Robertson was not entirely hostile to efforts in Palestine, telling Murray (31 January 1917) he wanted him to launch a Palestine Offensive in autumn and winter 1917, if the war was still going on then. The object was to sustain public morale and, with a compromise peace leaving Germany in control of the Balkans increasingly possible, to capture Aleppo. Aleppo was more easily reached from Palestine than from Mesopotamia, and her capture would make untenable Turkey’s hold on both regions. At this stage Russia was still pinning down many Turkish troops, although the Admiralty were not enthused about suggestions that the Royal Navy make amphibious landings in Palestine. It was agreed to build up Murray’s forces to 6 infantry divisions and 2 mounted divisions by the autumn, as well 16 Imperial Camel Companies and possibly some Indian cavalry from France.
It was Murray who authorized T. E. Lawrence's expedition to join the Arab Revolt against the Turks in Arabia, providing monetary and limited military support for Lawrence's attack on Aqaba: initially skeptical of the Revolt's potential, Murray became an ardent supporter of it later in his tenure in Cairo, largely through Lawrence's persuasion. By early 1917 the Turks had also withdrawn from Persia and had pulled back from Medina, which was besieged by the Arabs.
In March 1917 at the First Battle of Gaza a British force under Murray's command comprising 52nd (Lowland) Division reinforced by an infantry brigade from Eastern Force attacked Gaza. While the Imperial Mounted Division held off the Turkish reinforcements, the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division (Anzac Mounted Division) reinforced the infantry attack and together, they succeeded in entering Gaza from the north and capturing the adjoining hill of Ali Muntar. However the determination of the Turkish defenders and the threat from large Turkish reinforcements approaching from the north and north east ultimately led to decision to withdraw.
At the Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917 Murray assembled a larger force comprising the 52nd (Lowland) Division, 53rd (Welsh) Division, the 54th (East Anglian) Division and the recently formed 74th (Yeomanry) Division which was made up of brigades of dismounted yeomanry serving as infantry. However the six British tanks, the British heavy guns and naval gunfire from the French coastal defence ship Requin and two British monitors (M21 and M31) did little damage and only served to warn the Turks of the imminent British attack which faltered at all points. Again Murray decided to withdraw.
The Second Battle of Gaza coincided with the failure of the Nivelle Offensive, reports of unrest among Russian troops after the February Revolution and an escalation of the U-Boat War (it was thought that loss of shipping might make Egypt untenable) causing Robertson to prefer a return to a defensive policy in the Middle East, although this was not Lloyd George's view.
Despite laying the plans for the ultimate defeat of the Turks, Murray was relieved of command and replaced by Edmund Allenby on 29 June 1917. Murray was mentioned in despatches again on 3 November 1917.
After Egypt 
Murray was reassigned, becoming General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Aldershot Command in October 1917 and having been promoted to full general on 25 August 1919, remained in post until 15 November 1919. After retiring from the British Army on 15 November 1922, he was advanced to GCB in the New Year Honours 1928.
In Popular Culture 
In the film Lawrence of Arabia Murray is portrayed by Donald Wolfit. In a brief appearance he dismisses the Arab revolt as "a sideshow of a sideshow" and protests that in Egypt he is being expected to "fight a bloody war without bloody artillery". After the fall of Aqaba Lawrence remarks that the replacement of Murray by Allenby is "a step in the right direction".
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- Holmes, Richard (2004). The Little Field Marshal: A Life of Sir John French. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-84614-0.
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- Woodward, David R (1998). Field Marshal Sir William Robertson. Westport Connecticut & London: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-95422-6.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Archibald James Murray|
Despatches of General Murray
- General Murray's Despatch, 16 January to 31 May 1916
- General Murray's Despatch, 1 June to 30 September 1916
- General Murray's Despatch, 1 October 1916, to 28 February 1917
- General Murray's Despatch, 1 March to 28 June 1917
Sir Henry Lawson
|Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff
February 1915 – September 1915
Sir Launcelot Kiggell
Sir James Murray
|Chief of the Imperial General Staff
September 1915 – December 1915
Sir William Robertson
Sir Archibald Hunter
|GOC-in-C Aldershot Command
1917 – 1919